Following the pre-season tour of Austria, Lee Clark has started shaping his plans for next season. A good result (2-2) against Champions League qualifiers Borussia Monchengladbach was followed up by a win against Shrewsbury Town (2-1), a defeat at Cheltenham (0-1) and an impressive thrashing of Bury (5-1). But what have we learnt about Clark’s plans for next term?
The most obvious thing that has come to light is that Clark favours a holding central midfield player. Both Hayden Mullins and Morgaro Gomis have been fielded there so far, but Blues also have Keith Fahey and Jonathan Spector, who have both been missing through injury, capable of filling that role.
Alongside the holding man is an advanced midfielder. Wade Elliott has been used in that position more than anyone else in pre-season, but Nathan Redmond has played there as part of a midfield five. Darren Ambrose has been used predominantly wide left thus far, but he classes himself as a creative central midfielder, so may get a look in down the middle.
Up top we’ve seen a real mixed bunch. Marlon King is thought to be the main striker; his 18 goals last season were a big positive for Blues. Nikola Zigic and new-boy Peter Lovenkrands (who scored twice at Bury) are both held in high regard. Adam Rooney and youngster Akwasi Asante have both been decent in the warm-up games, they add to the already fierce competition.
The back four pretty much picks itself providing all of them are fit. Stephen Carr the skipper, Steven Caldwell, Curtis Davies and David Murphy, the best left back outside the top flight have all proved that they can play together and Pablo Ibanez is a good choice as back up – his CV is immense. Mitch Hancox and Jack Deaman, both young guns, have impressed in the games they’ve played in, however with Clark looking to bring a left back in as back-up, that suggests they may be sent out on loan.
Between the sticks, Jack Butland, who has been given the number one jersey will be first choice, but due to Team GB’s participation in the Olympic Games, he has missed all the warm-up games for Blues. Colin Doyle and David Lucas have done well, but both will struggle to outclass Butland who has taken a grip on the position.
The squad is looking quite strong and if they can tighten up at the back and be a bit more potent in front of goal, Blues can be there or thereabouts come May.